Tuesday, October 5, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #19: My Mother's Daughter

I am standing outside Bachelor’s Quarters at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station when the helicopters buzz overhead like hungry vultures practicing formations for the moment when their ‘game’ comes into view: destitute, cornered, depleted. It is as though time remains unchanged here and everything and everyone scurries about in some anachronistic hurry. Shielding my eyes from the haze that hides the sun, I glance upwards and wonder if my very own mother once did the same in a time much like now when war seemed unending and she questioned when, if ever, a semblance of restoration and peace would begin anew.

With a deep heave in my chest and my shoulders sunk low I am struck with a frightening realization: I can’t quite remember a time without war. I can’t fully remember when that vile word wasn’t on the tip of everyone’s tongue, wondering when this one would end and the next would begin- and I start to understand what it means both to be a King protecting his throne and more certainly, a Queen left waiting at home, not breathing, not moving, not counting any blessings until, well, until it is finally over. But when is it ever truly over?

At a time when so many of my very dear friends are becoming mothers themselves, I can’t help but look inside myself and wonder what kind of mother I would be, that is, if I ever were to become one. Though I am very much without child, the more I concentrate on the concept of having children of my own, the more I am drawn the mysteries and complete brilliance of my own mother. While many girls struggled with the mother daughter relationship, my own mother and I seem to have superseded these whitewater river currents. Certainly, we’ve had arguments here and there, most especially during my teenage years, but my own mother and I form a bond that I feel goes beyond mother and daughter: I am her child, but she is also my sister, my best friend, my closest confidant. So when I look up at those helicopters buzzing and remember how much my mother tried to shield me from this type of discord and pain I can only laugh: I am stubborn and I am most certainly my mother’s daughter.

During the 1970’s my mother and my father married. He was a Naval Option ROTC student at the University of Notre Dame, and she was a gorgeous bride with dreams of psychology and art, a nice home and stability. Once he graduated from University, my parents moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where my father was promptly assigned a ship and a billet to the Vietnam War. My mother was young, barely 21 when she gave birth to their first son, my brother, Chris. My father was deployed and so my mother at that very young age gave birth alone: far from family and friends in a very foreign feeling Naval hospital in Norfolk. In that sense, she and I share very few similarities. Armed with her history, I sought out quite a different future. At twenty-one I was more interested in job connections and parties than I was with having a family, in fact, the very concept repulsed me. I was reverent not to lose myself, not to a man and certainly not to the United States Military.

Years passed and my parents were quite happy; my father retired from being an Officer in the United States Navy and two additional children followed. The last, being me, turned out to be stubborn, a perfectionist, a people pleaser and ironically someone who marched to the beat of her own drummer, very conscious of my mother’s past and destined not to repeat it. Of course, I was foolish. By all accounts, my parents were and are extremely lucky and happy, so why I felt a desire to move my path down such different roads could only be attributed to a childlike sense of dogged will. But I never forgot my mother’s words and advice; in a way, I felt a need to live out my twenties for both myself an my mother. I posted Gloria Steinem quotes and meditated upon them with somewhat of a religious fervor; admittedly, I still do.

In turn, my mother did everything in her power to protect me from the outside world, though it was the outside world I longed for most. But, even the very best mothers can’t protect their daughters from war and on September 11, 2001, it was my mother who notified me that a plane had flown into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. It is my mother’s voice that I remember the most that day. It is my mother’s voice that I am most grateful for on that day. The day when I think my generation collectively lost their innocence.

There is a time in every American’s life for generations past that they can remember their innocence lost. For some it was Pearl Harbor, the declaration of World War One or Two, Kennedy’s assassination, the Korean War, Vietnam, and for us it was 9/11. For me, it was the day when the sky fell in and I realized that real life happened not on stage, but beyond the exit wings. Nine years later and then some we are a generation that has grown accustomed to war, turbulence, unrest and change. It is amazing how ‘well’ we adapt.

It is amazing how history repeats itself.

I am not sure what I expected when I married a Captain, an Aviator no less, in the Marine Corps. At the superficial best, I feel pride and a swelling of my heart that my husband is one of the brave few who puts himself on the line for his country; at the worst I feel separated from my friends, my family and myself who can not understand the routines and sacrifices of this ironically foreign feeling military life. There are moments where I miss my self-imposed bubble of television cuts and final edits, scripts and cocktail hours after work. There are moments when I feel horribly out of place on a military base, as though I’ve snuck into some secret government location and at any point someone is going to come knocking on my door and tell me the jig is up. There are moments where I am overwhelmed when I realize that I have married a Marine during wartime; in truth, I still haven’t rectified it in my head. It feels like pretend to me. I suspect it always might; I suspect that may be a self-defense mechanism.

Either way, as I stand outside Bachelor’s Quarters and marvel at the helicopters as they pass me overhead, I can’t help but wonder about my mother, my sister. I can’t help but feel like her. And for that, I am grateful. To know that no matter where this crazy military will take me, I will always have her by my side, whispering in my ear sermons of strength, and telling me that safety and my family are always around the corner.

So in that moment I draw in a deep breath and turn my eyes from the helicopters and look east.

I am looking toward Virginia.

I am looking toward home.


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